Snake Dike 5.7 R
Trip ReportClimbing SD with my boy, TR, lots of photos
This is a trip report primarily about my oldest son Ky, and his first multi-pitch climb. I have 3 boys, 9-year-old twins, and 11-year-old Kyler. All 3 of them love to climb, and have been climbing since they could walk. They have all been up the cables route, and handled it fine.
How this all came to happenÖ
Ky and I were out one day and a friend asked about Snake Dike. I have climbed it a few times, so I hyped it up to convince him it was worth the approach. A while later, while hiking back to the car, Ky told me he wanted to climb Snake Dike. My first thought was to dismiss it, I mean is that the kind of climb to take a young kid on? Something with a long, difficult approach, run out slab climbing, and a long descent? But I questioned him further and he seemed serious about it. There were complications, though, Ky only weighs 90 pounds, heís not heavy enough to belay me, so I would need someone else to go. I called another friend that had been wanting to do it, and we set a date for July 22.
July 22, 2009
I woke Ky up at 1:45 am, and we were on the road out of Bridgeport at 2:15. We picked up Dave at the Whoa Nellie at 2:45, and headed into the Park. We parked near curry, rode our bikes down to Happy Isles, and hit the trail by 4:30.
As you would expect, there were few people on the trail, just a couple of groups, and we motored past them on our way up to the top of Vernal Falls. Ky was having a few second thoughts about this whole thing, and needed a little encouragement to keep going.
We had decided to take the shortcut on the approach, the route that goes between Mt. Broderick and Liberty Cap, it is supposed to be shorter, and it skips all of those switch backs on the way up to Little Yosemite Valley. I had taken this route once before, many years ago, with my Dad, but didnít remember it all that well, and it was a good call. It was beautiful in there.
There was mostly a good use trail, but being the boys that we are, we had to go under every little tunnel made by rockfall along the way.
There were a few sections of thick trees, but most of it was very pleasant hiking, mostly shady, and no one else was in there.
We were able to avoid most of the brush on the way up to the scrambling section of the approach, and we saw a party of 2 ahead of us. They were quite a way ahead, so we were hopeful that they would be 2 or so pitches up by the time we got to the base.
But it didnít happen that way. It was a couple, and they did not know where the route started, so they were wandering around on the shoulder looking for the route. The female member of the party was about to pull the plug, she thought that if her partner couldnít even find the route, he was not a good bet to take her up.
We pointed them in the right direction, but they elected to let us go first, an option that we gratefully accepted. That is one of the main challenges of this route, it is so popular that you stand a good chance of being in a long line of parties strung along the route. To combat this we had chosen a weekday, and had left early, but still didnít arrive at the base until 8:30 am. But now we were in the front! I racked up with .3, .4, .5, & .75 Camalots, #8, #10, & #12 stoppers, 2 QDs, 2 slings, and 2 cordelettes. I never used the stoppers, but did use everything else.
I headed up the first pitch, and made decent time. This was the only pitch that was in the shade, we didnít start climbing until 9 am, later than we wanted, but that was how it worked out.
To make time, I had planned to belay both Ky and Dave simultaneously, and it worked out well. The party of 2 was on our heels for a little while, but we soon put some distance on them, eventually finishing maybe 2 pitches ahead.
I was a little concerned about Ky on the second pitch with itís 2 traversing sections, but we had a strategy. After I set the belay, Ky came up next and Dave gave him a back-belay so that if he fell he wouldnít pendulum. But no worries, he didnít fall. Ky has climbed as hard as 5.10b, but this was a different kind of climbing for him, all friction feet, very few solid handholds. So I was wondering how he would handle it, but he did fine. And since no one told him he should be scared, he wasnít really too uncomfortable up there. We ran out of shade on this pitch, but there was a nice breeze, and it was pretty comfortable the whole way up.
Pitch 3 is the first pitch where youíre actually installed on the dike, and the climbing is fun, the route-finding elementary, and cleaning the gear takes no time at all.
I didnít bring a topo, I had been up this thing a half-dozen times before, so I messed up the 4th pitch again. It is really short, with no bolts or pro at all except the belay bolts. But I arrived at the belay bolts so quickly that I thought that it was just a redundant clip, so I clipped them and passed on through. I couldnít find any more bolts, I did sling a chicken-head maybe 100 feet out, and kept moving. Soon I ran out of rope, about 35 feet below the anchors for the end of the 5th pitch.
I found a horn and slung that for a short belay to get Dave to the belay bolts for the 4th pitch. Once Dave was established, we brought Ky to there, and I finished the 5th pitch.
Once Ky and Dave arrived, I headed up the 6th pitch, which is pretty casual, climbing-wise, with one bolt on a short, steep little headwall, then the belay.
We continued on up the 7th pitch, which is way easy but way run out, I found one cam placement, that was about it. I imagine that real climbers donít place anything on this pitch. But we didn't see any climbers like that.
We finished up the 8th pitch, also easy, and I sewed it up, placing 2 cams along the way.
Those of you who have done this route know whatís next, the section to the summit described as 2nd and 3rd class friction forever. The 8 pitches had taken us 4 hours, which isnít too bad for a party of 3. Not that great either, I guess.
We slogged up to the top, and as expected there were quite a few folks up there, and they were clogging up the cables descent. We were eager to get down, as we crested the summit we saw and heard a large T-Storm off to the northeast, and we didnít want to wait around for it to get closer.
It was roastiní hot on the hike down, we stopped 3 times to dunk our heads and cool down, then we ran out of water, but kept plodding down. We drank at the bridge and at the spring near the bottom, and then jumped on our bikes and headed to the store for Gatorades and ice cream to fortify us for the 2.5 hour drive home. From home-to-home, we were gone for 20 hours, a huge day for an 11-year-old on his first multi-pitch, but he took it in stride. Iím proud of my little boy, and his big effort. Now how am I gonna get those 2 nine-year-olds up there?
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